One morning Roy G. Biv* went to work sporting a new red shirt- or so it seemed. A coworker complimented Roy on the shirt and remarked that he used to have a jacket that was the same color brown. As they continued talking, the co-worker mentioned that he has a color vision deficiency. This prompted a discussion about how people may perceive the world in different ways without even realizing it.
Color deficiency is often hereditary and occurs more frequently in men than women. Although the term "color blindness" may be more familiar, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA), the deficiency rarely "exists to an extent that no colors can be detected." In such rare cases, the person may see "only shades of black, white and grey." Visit the American Optometric Association. In most cases, individuals with a color deficiency have difficulty distinguishing red and green, though others have trouble with yellow and blue.
Someone once asked how a person with a color deficiency knows when to stop and start at a traffic light. The question raises an interesting point. When one observes a traffic light, is color the only information gathered to make a decision? Although a person with a color deficiency may perceive the colors of the stop light differently, the top lamp continues to mean "stop," the middle "yield," and the bottom "go."
An individual may use various coping strategies to compensate for difficulty in distinguishing colors. In the home, a person could mark clothing with identifier tags of various shapes to indicate color. Another strategy might be choosing a color scheme consisting of select coordinating colors. At work for example, an individual may choose file folders or copy paper in more easily identifiable tones. Asking a friend or coworker’s opinion may be helpful and fun, too.
There are some innovative products on the market that may help accommodate difficulty in distinguishing color. Some people may find color enhancement lenses beneficial. Others may prefer a hand held device such as the "ColorTest," which reports its findings verbally. JAN does not endorse products, but is happy to share information when available. To learn more, feel free to check out these and other color vision related products.
*Fun Fact: ROYGBIV is an acronym that represents the colors of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.